What To Expect: The 2nd Trimester

Whew, you’ve made it past the 1st trimester! Hopefully you are feeling a little less nauseous, a little more energized, and looking more pregnant than bloated.

The 2nd trimester is honestly my favorite, and I’ve heard that other mothers loved it too. Look forward to this season as it is probably going to be the most comfortable and happy part of your pregnancy.

My hope is to answer some of the questions you may have about the 2nd trimester! Here are the questions I’ll be covering in this article. Scroll down to find the one you are looking for!

  • What symptoms can I expect? 
  • What kind of diet & exercise regime should I be doing? 
  • What things should I avoid? 
  • What can I expect at my doctor’s visits? 
  • What is happening with my baby? 
  • What should I be doing to prepare? 

What symptoms can I expect in my 2nd trimester?

  • Baby kicks!!! No doubt the most exciting symptom in your entire pregnancy, you can expect to feel quickening anytime in the 2nd trimester. If you are a first time mom, be patient: it can take awhile to recognize the flutters. If you are overweight or have an anterior placenta it can also take a lot longer to feel the kicks. You can expect to feel them definitely by the end of the 2nd trimester.
  • Continually growing breasts. Most likely, the pain will settle down as the growth won’t be a sudden as it was in the 1st trimester. But expect more tingles and growth as your milk glands start to get ready for your baby.
  • Stretch marks. Despite claims from companies and other moms alike, it’s nearly impossible to prevent stretch marks. They have a lot to do with your genetics. If a mom claims that a product prevented her from getting stretch marks, it’s more likely that she wouldn’t have gotten them in the first place or that she didn’t gain much weight. The way that your body carries your babies (low/high, front/back) will affect this as well.
  • Varicose veins. Once again, these are highly genetic. You may or may not get them and there isn’t much you can do about it.
  • The “Linea Nigra“. In other words, a dark line that runs from your navel to your pubic area.
  • Skin changes. The hormones coursing through your body right now have a big effect on your skin and hair. Some moms experience perfect, glowing skin while other mom’s get itchy, dry, patchy skin… some even experience darkening patches! None of this is to be feared as it will all go away after giving birth. Eat well, take your vitamins, drink lots of water, keep your face clean, and if your skin is still bothering you, get some new makeup that makes you feel more confident.
  • Leg/lower back pain. This is incredibly common in the 2nd trimester, as your baby begins to put more pressure on your lower back and sometimes laying on nerves that trigger pain all the way down the back of your legs. Sleeping on your left side and doing prenatal yoga can help with this pain.
  • Swelling. Some women don’t experience swelling until the 3rd trimester, but others begin to swell as soon as they pee on the stick! Your body slows down blood circulation and retains lots of fluids to make sure that your baby gets enough of everything. These two things cause you to look REALLY puffy. There’s not much you can do about this either except drink even more water. 🙂 It seems counterproductive, but the less water you drink, the more your body will store it up as an emergency source for your baby.
  • Aching abdomen, pelvis, back & hips. Once again, each woman experiences this pain differently. Some women won’t get this pain until 3rd trimester, but don’t be surprised if it happens sooner than that. Your body is stretching to accommodate your growing baby and relaxing to prepare for your baby’s birth. All the aches and pains are very normal.
  • Nasal congestion, nose bleeds & bleeding gums. All of these symptoms have to do with increased blood flow to your mucus membranes. Your uterus is filled with different types of mucus to protect and nourish your baby, which means that all of the mucus in your body goes on overdrive.
  • Heartburn & shortness of breath. If you didn’t have it in the 1st trimester, look forward to it as your pregnancy moves on! If you are carrying your babe low, you may be blessed to not have any heartburn until the 3rd trimester. Shortness of breath also depends on how your baby is carrying. If that little one is high up in  your lungs, don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to catch your breath.
  • UTI’s and yeast infections. Pregnancy is fun stuff, ladies. Infections are to be expected in a place where so much is going on. Keep up with your hygiene in your nether regions, especially after sex.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions. These usually begin in the 2nd trimester. First time mothers notice them later in the pregnancy than experienced moms do. Most women don’t consider these to be painful, rather they are an uncomfortable tightening of the uterus practicing for the real deal. They will stop if you change your movement.
  • Dizziness. Feeling dizzy can be due to shortness of breath, low blood sugar, or both. Make sure you are eating often to avoid low blood sugar and don’t be embarrassed if you need to rest during activities or at work.
  • Carpal Tunnel. Having some pain in your wrist/forearms? This is totally normal as your body begins to swell and puts pressure on the nerves in your arm.
  • Hemorrhoids. These lovely, itchy bumps on your anus are caused by the pressure of your baby! Sometimes they don’t appear until after you give birth, which makes sense because of the pressure that happens when baby comes out the birth canal. Grab yourself some witch hazel and try not to itch!

If you need ideas for how to cope with these or other pregnancy symptoms, check out this post!

What kind of diet & exercise regime should I be on in my 2nd trimester?

Hooray! It’s now okay to gain up to 1 pound per week. Some weeks you will gain 2-3, some you will gain none… and that’s okay. But as a general rule of thumb, you should not have gained any more than the week you are (30 weeks = 30 pounds).

This means you shouldn’t be gaining any more than 40 pounds during your pregnancy. And that’s not me being judgmental Mama. My first pregnancy I gained 50+ with swelling and I felt like a disgusting monster and had a terrible time losing it.

My doctors were very harsh with me and made me feel terrible about my weight gain while all the older moms around me told me to eat whatever I wanted because it would all fall off afterwards. Needless to say, both were bad input. The negative input caused me to be angry and want to eat more, while the permissive well-meaning friends encouraged me to go with my gut and eat that donut!

So mom to mom, take my advice and be careful with what you eat! That baby really doesn’t need too much extra. 340 calories is the recommended addition to your diet, but I guarantee you that you will add that with out even realizing because of cravings/hunger that is normal with pregnancy. Think small, healthy and regular snacks all day long and you’ll great!

  • Continue taking your prenatal vitamins. You may also want to ask your doctor about an additional iron supplement and if you need one. If you are having a lot of cramping in your legs, you may be low on magnesium. Make sure that your prenatal vitamin has this addition and eat those bananas. 🙂
  • Eat 6-7 small meals. Instead of 3 giant meals each day, try snacking on healthy foods all day long. Eating often will help you keep your weight down, help with morning sickness and acid reflux, and provide a constant stream of nutrients to your baby.
  • Use this trick to get in your extra 340 calories the right way! Create a simple chart of the basic food groups and post it on your refrigerator. At the end of the day, note what you’ve eaten. For your bedtime snack, pick something that fulfills whatever category is lacking that day – yogurt (or a bowl of ice cream!) if you need more dairy, for example, or an orange if you need an extra serving of fruit.
  • Drink lots of water. Just like eating often, drinking often is likely to help with constipation and swelling. Your body slows down ALL processes to make sure that your body can soak up every last nutrient for your baby. If you are constantly feeding yourself with nutritious substances and hydration, your body won’t have the need to hold back as much for an emergency. Let your body know that you’ve got this taken care of!
  • Take it slow on the caffeine. Caffeine is perfectly safe to drink while pregnant, just stick to 1-2 cups a day (8-16 oz). Black coffee is obviously the best and healthiest option, but if you must add creamer or need some soda, don’t be worried about the health of your baby. They will be just fine.
  • Begin doing prenatal yoga. Even if you are doing other forms of exercise, doing yoga specifically for pregnancy will help combat some of the symptoms you are feeling as well as strengthen and prepare your body for labor.
  • It’s actually okay to enjoy the occasional glass of wine. Doctors have to say no alcohol is safe, because that is their job. But if you want to have a SMALL glass of wine a few nights a week, there is nothing harmful about this in the 2nd trimester. I found that I craved wine in my 2nd trimester and I wish I would have know that it was okay to indulge a little bit. Remember: If YOU can feel it, your baby can feel it, so be cautious and sip slowly.
  • Keep up good dental hygiene. Take a visit to the dentist during your 2nd trimester, and make sure you are flossing and brushing every day. Pregnancy can cause multiple dental issues, and some problems that can occur with your gums can lead to premature birth.
  • Do kegel exercises & perineal massage. Neither of these are exactly fun, but can be majorly helpful if you are planning on having a vaginal birth (not natural, just vaginal – they help whether you are getting an epidural or not!!)
  • No more abdominal exercises. Bummer, right? Focus on exercises that strengthen your legs and back for labor, and your arms and chest for carrying that baby after birth. If you weren’t much into exercise before you conceived, don’t feel bad about sticking to walking and stretching as your form of movement. Even housework is a great way to keep moving. Remember, staying active is more important than what kind of exercise you are doing. Basically, just don’t be a couch potato.
  • Start sleeping on your left side. Doing so will increase blood flow to your baby and help prevent some of the aches and pains that go along with pregnancy. It is also the most comfortable for your growing baby. And speaking of sleep, make sure that you are getting plenty of it. 6-8 hours minimum… you should be aiming for 9-10 every day if possible (including naps/resting).

What things should I avoid in the 2nd trimester?

  • No more lying on your back. If you used to be a back sleeper, hopefully you’ve been practicing side sleeping during your 1st trimester, because back sleeping is out! Why?? The weight of your growing uterus suppresses the “vena cava”, a large blood vessel that supplies your baby with blood. While not usually dangerous, it’s a good idea to stop doing exercises that require you to lay on your back as well.
  • Be careful about seafood. While there are definitely safe fish to eat during pregnancy, I ended up steering clear of it completely and taking Omega-3 supplements. High levels of mercury can end up in seafood, which is unsafe for your baby. Some seafood is absolutely not to be eaten while pregnant. Make sure you do your research before enjoying anything fishy.
  • Cat litter. Don’t touch it, don’t breathe it in, stay away from it. Gross parasites live in it that can cause lots of harm to your unborn child.
  • Check ALL over the counter medications to see if they are safe for pregnancy. Call your primary care physician and check up on all your prescription medications as well. Some common OTC meds that are not safe for pregnancy include: Bismuth subsalicylate (pepto-bismol), Phenylephrine, Pseudoephedrine, Guaifenesin (cough & cold), Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen.
Note: This list is in addition to the list of things to avoid in the 1st trimester.

What can I expect at my prenatal visits during the 2nd trimester?

At your normal prenatal visits, you can expect to pee in a cup, get weighed, listen to the fetal heartbeat and get your uterus measured. Also during the 2nd trimester, you will have these special visits:

  • Fetal Anatomy Scan. Usually between weeks 16-22 your OBGYN will want to do a fetal anatomy scan. This is about an hour long sonogram that checks every organ and bone in your baby’s body, as well as the uterus and placenta, to make sure that everything is on target. This is also the time when you can find out the baby’s gender, if you want to.
  • Amniocentesis. This is an optional procedure to check for abnormalities in baby. This is also usually done at about 16-22 weeks.
  • Gestational Diabetes Blood Sugar Test. This test is done between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to see if you have Gestational Diabetes.

What is happening with my baby during the 2nd trimester?

13th week: Your baby is the size of a lemon and is developing intestines and vocal cords.

14th week: Your baby is the size of an orange and is now fully developed – all he needs to do is grow bigger! He is developing peach fuzz all over his body, beginning to make facial expressions, and is moving around like crazy.

15th week: Your baby is the size of a pear and is working on breathing, swallowing and sucking.

16th week: Your baby is the size of an avocado this week! His eyes are finally working: opening and closing and able to see light. Try shining a flashlight on your belly and wait for a response! You baby can also hear your voice. Start talking and singing to your baby and see how he responds.

17th week: Your baby is the size of a large onion and is developing his individual and unique fingerprints.

18th week: Your baby is the size of a cucumber. His nervous system is developing this week, and he is practicing yawning and hiccuping… you may even feel him hiccuping inside your belly!

19th week: Your baby is the size of a mango. His lungs are developing the main airways this week and his skin is now covered in vernix to protect his skin from the watery home he is in.

20th week: Your baby is the size of a sweet potato, and you may feel him or her kick this week if you haven’t already!

21st week: Your baby is the size of a large banana. His taste buds are developing, which means that whatever you taste he tastes! The food you eat flavors your amniotic fluid, which is what your baby drinks while in the womb. Your baby is also beginning to get more coordinated as he practices moving all his appendages in the womb.

22nd week: Your baby is the size of a small doll! He has hit a huge weight and developmental milestone and is getting very close to being able to survive outside of the womb. All of your baby’s sense are getting stronger this week.

23rd week: Your baby is the weight of a large grapefruit this week and will soon double his weight.

24th week: Your baby is about the size of a pomegranate. His face is fully formed and if he came right now, you would be able to see who he looks like!

25th week: Your baby is about the size of an eggplant. His startle reflex has formed, is starting to get some fat buildup under his translucent skin, and his hair is starting to get some pigment! His lungs and nose are also starting to gear up for breathing as soon as he is born.

26th week: Your baby is about the size of an acorn squash! He is growing eyelashes, nails, and pigment is beginning to color his little eyes. His brain is also beginning to have more activity to prepare him for BIG learning when he comes into this world.

27th week: Your baby is about the size of a cabbage this week. Did you know baby can recognize your voice?! How sweet! Don’t forget to talk to him!

28th week: Your baby is about the size of a head of lettuce. He is beginning to dream (about what we wonder?!) and sticking his tongue out at you! Your baby is also starting to get adjusted and ready for birth by getting head down.

What should I be doing to prepare for my baby during the 2nd trimester?

  • Finish 1st trimester to-do list.
  • Start working on a nursery for the baby. Even if it’s just the corner of your bedroom, begin to collect the items you will need and enjoy dreaming about your new baby as you do.
  • Moisturize your belly, thighs, butt, breasts and love handles. All of these spots will be stretching lots as you grow. Moisturizing is one way to help with healing skin as it stretches.
  • Tour the hospital where you will be giving birth. Ask any questions you have about the labor. Seeing the delivery room early may give you a little bit of anxiety, but when the time comes you will be glad that you knew what to expect.
  • Make sure that you have plenty of camera/phone storage for all the adorable photos you’ll be taking of your new baby.
  • Celebrate your halfway mark! Get a prenatal massage, a pedicure or go on a shopping spree. If you can’t afford any of that, ask your hubby to take over this job and give you a relaxing evening. You could also plan a girl’s day with your best friends, mom and/or sister’s to do something relaxing for you.
  • Check your rings. I remember the day an older lady pointed out my wedding ring and said “Be careful, mine got stuck and they had to cut it off when I got to the hospital!” The fact that you aren’t allowed to wear jewelry in the delivery room and that swelling of your hands can actually cause your rings to get stuck, it’s best to check on them around the 2nd trimester and see if you need to get a fake wedding band to get you through the remainder of your pregnancy.
  • Begin tackling any home improvement projects. Are there things you want to get done before your new family member arrives? Either do them yourself (now is the best time!) or bug your husband until he gets it done for you. Either way, you want to have time to think through details and get things done right instead of hurrying through the projects because the baby came early!
  • Consider hiring a doula. Doulas aren’t for everyone. I personally thought they were stupid, and my husband flat out said NO, but I ended up getting one through a free drawing. She was the best part of my labor and my husband asked her to be there for all our other children. If you can’t afford a doula, look for doulas in training as they will often provide services for free or highly discounting, and since it isn’t a medical job there is no risk to you for hiring someone who is still in training.
  • Have a baby shower. If no one has stepped up to do the job, swallow your pride and ask a friend to do this for you. If this isn’t your first child, there are other socially acceptable ways to have a shower of sorts and get some of the things you will need. If you already had a shower, or aren’t going to have one, make a shopping list of the remaining items that you need and start looking for good deals now! Don’t forget to write thank you notes as well.
  • If you qualify, sign up for WIC (Women Infants & Children) at your local health department. You don’t have to be in poverty to get WIC. I absolutely loved getting these coupons. We got free milk, eggs, cheese, fresh produce, cereal and juice. You also get free formula and baby food, if needed. It’s definitely worth calling and checking to see if you qualify.
  • Ask for hand me downs in every size. The thing that shocked me most about having a child is how quickly they shoot through clothes. There were some outfits my son fit into for less than a month! Make it your goal to have at least a small pile of clothes in correct seasons for the first year.
  • Start slowly collecting diapers. Diapers are really expensive. You’re going to have to buy them either way, so why not start now? Buy a package or two every time you go to the store. You will need the least amount of premie/NB diapers (maybe even only 1-2 packages of NB!) and the very most of size 1 (up to 1,200 diapers!).
  • Make a list of some things you want to accomplish before baby arrives. It could be something as simple as reading a book or having a shopping day. Whatever you want to enjoy before your whole life is changed, write it down! This will also give you something to do in those last few weeks of waiting.
  • If you’ll need daycare, begin searching for the best one. 
  • Begin thinking of baby names. Ask your partner to make a list of names he likes, and you do the same. Then look over each other’s lists and cross out ones you dislike, question mark beside the ones that are okay, and check mark beside the ones you love. Then make a uniform list of maybe’s and yes’s! Start saying the names over and over with your last name and putting possible middle names with them. You will know when you’ve found the right one – it will just FIT!

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